31 January 2017

This Pope ...

I haven't really said anything much about Amoris Laetitia (and will go back to Angeluses, Novenas and Ordines after this), and that's because sexual sin is the most individual and the hardest to judge and absolve.  Sex is the most basic and base of our instincts, and the one in which our brutishness has the best chance of being revealed.  It is also the occasion of sin against which the highest ideal has been set: that sexual union should only take place between lawfully married spouses completely open to the gift of conception. It's not like stealing or killing: this is something our bodies and minds are designed for.

Of course every grace is available to those who ask for it, and we all know of examples: of heroic and faithful fecundity; of pious resignation to unwelcome aridity; of chastity accepted as just one element of the greatest of vocations. And we all know, and mainly personally, how easy it is to fall short of the great ideal, and we know the particular hypocrisy that surrounds sexual sin: the couple who abstain so as not to conceive who look down on the contracepting couple who learned NFP at Church looking down at the contracepting couple who use chemicals and these looking down on the remarried couple who in turn look down on the unmarried couple, and all look down on the gays. (How is homosexual sexual sin worse than heterosexual sexual sin when at least homosexuals aren't putting a barrier between their sexual activity and procreation?)  And when was the last time anybody here was taught about continence.

And the priest walks into the confessional to face all of this and the whole contextual misery in which somebody acknowledges their sin and their need to repent and access grace and has to decide how to address the particular situation of a particular individual at a particular point in time.  Poor priests!  It was hard enough before Amoris Laetitia: how difficult must it be now.

And all this talk of "living like brother and sister"! I know two or three examples of brother and sister house-shares and I can assure you that they don't involve people who share a bed or sexual longings for each other.  For what it's worth, I think that the Church's (or at least some churchmen's) attempts to "develop doctrine" have been thrown into relief by sexual sin: you can't pretend that what's sinful isn't.  You might argue that contextually what one absolute monarch did in the sixteenth century looks objectively like mortal sin, while analogous activity by a nineteenth century slumdweller looks objectively like venial sin; but they're both sins, and, anyway, sins are committed by people, and it's what is going on in the mind of the person that the priest in confession or, I daresay, God, at the Judgement will look at as much as at the objectivity of the sinfulness of the action.

So I'm not getting into arguments about ambiguous footnotes, or demands that strict rules should be applied across various boards.  I know about my own sinfulness and will address that, I hope, before starting on anybody else's.

But I will say that in all of this I want a teacher who teaches me unambiguously what is right and what is wrong.  I want a Church and a Pope who tell me that I have fallen short and that in spite of that I can still stand up again and move forward.  I want that teaching office, the confirmation f the brethren to be at the heart of what the Pope and the Bishops are for.

And instead, we learn that the Pope isn't even going to offer teaching and correction to his brother Bishops during their ad limina visits henceforth. He's given up on the teaching office he was elected to. That, I suggest, is the crisis: he can't even be bothered to pretend.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I visit your blog daily (not least because it has the best links I know of to other good Catholic blogs) and am always very pleased when you have posted. When you write, you write thoughtfully and wisely and this post is no exception. So thank you. I agree wholeheartedly with your final summary paragraphs. I think this hits the nail on the head. God bless.